How I Became a Mouth Artist.
The Story So Far…
I am the oldest child in our family of six I have a brother Mark, I have two step sisters Louise and Caroline. We lived in a small country village in North Lincolnshire. When I left school at 16 (what a relief, I didn’t enjoy school it was a hindrance) I attended my local Technical College studying a pre-apprentice course, when this ended I was offered a job as an apprentice motor mechanic at 17 years of age in a local garage in the next village.
Life Changing Decision ………
I had an old Vespa scooter to travel to work, this wasn’t much but was better than cycling the 3 miles or so to work every day. One Friday dinnertime in June 1978 while on a routine errand I was involved in an accident, a month away from my 18th birthday. This resulted in me being paralysed from the neck down. I was admitted to the nearest Spinal Injuries Unit in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. While I was in hospital I experienced mouth painting for the first time with the Occupational Therapists, I persevered for an hour trying to paint something, in frustration I threw down the brush and that was the end of my painting at that time. I spent the rest of my day;s in the O.T. Department copy typing text from a book, using an electric typewriter and a mouth stick.
Returning Home ……….
When I was discharged from hospital sometime in 1979 I returned home, this wasn’t my first time back at home, as during my stay in the hospital I went home some weekends. Actually being back in my old home full-time and not having an electric wheelchair at all, I spent my time reading magazines with a tray positioned in front of me, turning the pages over with a stick held in my mouth. This boredom was relieved somewhat when friends called round, as is with human nature, the friends eventually started to dwindle as they got on with their lives and I was alone again.
At this time I was given a paint by numbers, painting kit. This was nothing special just a simple pheasant in a landscape. After the monotony of just sitting and reading I relished a different activity. After actually getting used to holding the brush in my mouth, spending a great deal of time experimenting with mixing paints and eventually applying the paint. The picture eventually looked something like the image on the box and I got a lot of satisfaction from actually being able to do something constructive. Little did I know at that time that this was going to be the start of my painting experience.
This simple little painting is very dear to me and can be seen in my portfolio. I never knew that I had the ability to do such a thing. The sense of purpose and satisfaction has been with me since that day. I took art as a subject at school, however my enthusiasm was not great resulting in my course work being average. My Grandma studied at Lincoln Art College studying portraiture, whenever visiting Grandma we often saw a painting partially completed on an easel in her lounge. Sometimes if we were good she would actually do some painting in front of us.
Pursuing With a Sense of Purpose ……
I progressed further, painting a couple more paint by numbers pictures. I then moved forward doing outline painting’. These are roughly pre-drawn canvas boards, included were basic colours and instructions on how to mix the paint and apply it. After this I started copying image’ from old calendars, cards etc.
I continued experimenting with different types of mediums, reverting back to oil painting as my preferred medium. I also started pencil drawing, which I find relaxing and being able to just leave it and come back to it whenever I want, this was sometimes easier than having the paints out all the time.
Over the years I gained a lot of experience and painted scenes I like doing, many of these ended up with friends and family. I have never had any formal training, I know I have picked up bad habits, one of these is overworking my paintings. Working so close to the canvas it is very easy to get engrossed in a particular part of the painting. I am trying to address this working style. All artists are individuals and however they paint, from this a rich diversity of styles can be seen.
Inspirational Read ………
Sometime in the 80’s I was given a book by Mark Alexander illustrating the lives and paintings of the group of artists who paint either with their mouths or feet, the book also contains the history of the Association that they belong to. I was amazed by their achievements and after looking at their pieces of art work, I put the book away and continued with my own personal development. Some years later I came across an article about the Mouth and Foot Painting Association, I decided to contact them and to see if my work was good enough to join the Association.
I received a telephone call from the Association and I was asked to send six original copies of my art work, a brief autobiography and a letter from my Dr stating my disability and how I painted. I was fortunate some months later to be asked to join the Association as a student member, and I have been with the Association since 1998 and I have had my work illustrated on various Christmas cards and other stationery. During this time I have met some wonderful people who belong to the Association and many of them are still good friends to this day.
Overcoming Limitations ………
In my early days I used conventional paintbrushes and materials. Being a Mouth Artist I have very limited range of movements. I was always frustrated not being able to achieve certain strokes and effects which were available to able bodied artists.
Some years later I was introduced to a charity called Remap (Rehabilitation Engineering Movement Advisory Panel) this wonderful group of Engineers who, after retirement use their skills to design and engineer bespoke equipment for people with disabilities. With their ingenuity and skill sets I have been able to overcome and achieve many goals during my life.
I am able to live my life independently at home with the aid of my two Personal Assistants. I choose to manage my care package with one Personal Assistant living in my home for one week at a time. Living this way gives me continuity of care and level of independence enabling me to live my life as I choose.
During February 2017, life was to take another path. I was chronically sick and with this, some life changing experiences. Subsequently eight months later I was discharged from hospital with a tracheostomy, having to learn to draw and paint again has been challenging.
My care package has changed with additional new Carers assisting alongside my Personal Assistants, however I’m still totally independent and managing my care package. Life has taught me that you do not have to look far to find someone worse off than yourself, I look upon the new life changes as preparing me for the years ahead.
I look forward to being creative and sharing my paintings and new bespoke equipment with you.
Thank you for viewing my website, if you have any comments or questions regarding anything you see here, please contact me via the contact page.